TENSION remained high in the town of Compostela, Cebu yesterday, as supporters of two mayoral candidates kept a vigil around the municipal hall.
Mayor-elect Joel Quiño refused to step down, despite an order from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) designating Regional Director Pedro Noval Jr. as the town’s officer-in-charge.
One of his supporters was punched in the face late yesterday by an unidentified person, while drinking in a store across the municipal hall, where Quiño’s other supporters rallied.
Quino also sent a letter asking Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia to mediate. Noval urged Commission on Elections (Comelec) Provincial Supervisor Lionel Castillano to take action on Quiño’s defiance.
Noval said Quiño may be cited in contempt.
Quiño said he would choose to stay in jail for contempt, rather than abandon the 12,000 people in Compostela who voted for him as mayor.
Municipal offices displayed “Business as usual” signs and despite the tension, there were no major incidents apart from the punching of one supporter.
The mayor’s lawyer, John Cane, said yesterday Noval’s appointment as caretaker mayor is “premature” because there is a pending motion for reconsideration at the Comelec Second Division.
That division, headed by Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer, suspended the proclamation of Quiño, vice mayor-elect Nanette Dangoy and eight councilors.
Cane said the division denied them due process.
“Until now, we have not received the resolution that ordered the suspension of my client’s proclamation,” said Cane.
They plan to ask for a restraining order that will stop the DILG from taking over as caretaker and allow Quiño and company to assume office.
During their meeting with Noval yesterday, Cane and Quiño reminded the DILG regional director about the pending motion for reconsideration.
But Noval answered he is just following orders from his superiors.
Cebu Provincial Police Office Director Erson Digal and Lt. Col. Raymundo Bañares, commander of the military’s 78th Infantry Battalion (IB), went to Compostela yesterday to supervise the security personnel.
Describing it as a political rally and not a prayer rally, Richel Wagas-Cañada, Barangay Poblacion captain and sister of former mayor Richie Wagas, asked Digal to stop the activity.
(Richie lost his reelection bid in the May 10 polls.)
She said it agitated the Wagas camp’s supporters, whom she asked to stay calm.
Digal advised the police to apply maximum tolerance, but to disperse any group that causes violence to break out.
The incident that injured Noel Cabatingan Paradiang, 50, reportedly began before the rally ended at 6 last night. The victim is a cousin of Cabadiangan Barangay Captain Mario Paradiang and reportedly a supporter of Quiño.
The rally, preceded by a mass, was a sign of protest from Quiño’s supporters.
Addressing the rally attended by at least 500 supporters, Quiño criticized the Comelec for its haste.
Platoons from the Regional Mobile Group and the Philippine Army’s 78th IB watched as the rally unfolded.
On his first day as officer-in-charge, Director Noval of DILG met with all department heads to identify urgent tasks so services will not be disrupted.
Lack of personnel was the common concern the department heads raised, Noval said. Contracts of the casual employees, who work on a job-order basis, expired last June 30.
A team from the DILG, composed of municipal local government officers from the towns of Cordova, Consolacion, Lapu-Lapu, Liloan and Compostela, are helping Noval as the town’s acting mayor.
Noval, Quiño and his lawyer Ceniza also briefly met yesterday morning on who should be recognized as the town’s chief executive.
Noval was firm on his stand to serve as the officer-in-charge, while Quino maintained he should stay in office.
Noval held office in the executive building while Quino stayed in the adjacent legislative building.
Noval said while he is officer-in-charge of the town, all the department heads must take orders from him.
He also wrote the Land Bank of the Philippines, informing them that he and the municipal treasurer are taking over as official signatories for the northern town’s transactions.